If you're like me you enjoy a vacation, time with friends, and family fun at the beach. Plenty of sunscreen, water, and food! For whatever reason, we typically feel more comfortable eating seafood when we are closer to the ocean. Seafood can seem overwhelming with all the different types of fish, shrimp, oysters, and well, I guess the list can go on and on. You may feel like you need a cheat sheet to make sure you don't end up spending your next day out of commission overwhelmed with choices to make on food prep and execution. Well, we have done the research, talked with the experts, and spent hours cooking to create a simple guide to help you confidently bring beach dinners right into your kitchen.
Where do I start?
So, maybe you have no idea where to start and you find yourself asking some of these questions. What type of fish am I looking for? How many shrimp? Fresh or Frozen? Well, we would suggest that you get to know the people you buy your groceries from. Those people can point you in the right direction. Most, if not all, super markets have a meat(butcher) and seafood section(fishmonger). These folks are there to help you. Sure, it may be intimidating, but there is no need to be panicked at the fish counter. Using a fishmonger as your guide will give you the courage to explore with new species and flavors.
Top Questions to Ask a Fishmonger
- What is in season? Yes, seafood does have a season.
- This could be followed up with “what would you recommend?”
- Where was this fish caught? Who supplied the fish?
- If you’re unsure of how to cook fish or shellfish ask the fishmonger for his/her advice.
- Before leaving the fishmonger, ask “How should I store the fish until I cook it?”
- Lean fish vs fatty fish. (we could do a whole article on this) There are great benefits in fatty fish oils or good fats.
Helpful Tips When Choosing the Right Seafood
Following these quick and easy tips will help you make sure you are picking the freshest seafood from the store.
- Make sure they have clear eyes
- Pick the fish in season
- No pungent smells
- Gills are still red
- Firm to the touch
- Still in its shell
- The shell should have a firm and glossy appearance
- No black spots
- No offensive, or sharp smells
- Firm to the touch
- Cook scallops the day you buy them, if possible.
- Should be on ice in the store.
- Fresh smell
- Should feel weighty for their dimension, which means they're full of their liquor. (The natural juice that keeps them alive)
- No open shells or empty sound when you tap them—red flags.
Other Helpful In-Store Tips
- You can request shrimp peeled and de-veined
- You can request fish skinned and filleted
- If you need something from the frozen section because you meal prep by the week - All of these questions still apply and you can use the same techniques and methods, you just have to let the fish/shrimp thaw. (side note: if you buy frozen shrimp in a bag and they are already pink most likely they have already been cooked. Make sure to read the label. If you buy fish/shrimp that is already cooked you are basically warming it up, not cooking it. Overcooking can cause the fish/shrimp to be super tough and chewy.)
Methodology for Cooking
Every entree on the menu could be prepared several different ways. Grilled, Blackened, Fried, Broiled, or Baked. Each way has its own uniqueness and level of prep time. Its all based on your comfort level and how you like to cook.
- Grilled - pick the entree of your choice. Here at Lane’s we love cooking on our Blackstone on med/high accompanied by a nice pad of butter. If you are using a traditional grill(charcoal or gas) you might want to get a seafood grill pan. This will help things (fish, shrimp, scallops) to not fall through the larger grill grate. If you are grilling salmon you might also want to think about using a grill plank. Cooking stores will sell pre-cut wood planks made especially for plank grilling. The flavor is up to you. Cedar, cherry, hickory, pecan, maple, apple. Cedar planks, however, are the most popular.
- Blackened - traditionally using butter and a combination of herbs/spices to season your protein. The butter and spices form a crust on the protein that, because of the heat turn a dark color and lock in flavor. (you are not burning the protein.) We took all the guess work out of the herb/spice mix and made our own Blackening Seasoning that goes great on everything. Again you can use the flattop with a med/high heat when cooking.
Fried - you will need all purpose flour, egg wash(beaten eggs), and bread crumbs. You can definitely get creative with breading process. Its really all about your preference. You can use panko bread crumbs, seasoned bread crumbs, traditional bread crumbs. If you would like to make a simple beer batter that goes great with white fish(white bass, cod, grouper, crappie) you can combine the flour, beaten egg, and beer together to make a great tasting batter.
Heat oil to 375 degrees and fry entree to your crispiness level. Standard procedure is to pat-dry your protein with a paper towel, dip into the flour, into the egg wash, into the bread crumbs.If you desire a thicker crust/breading then repeat the process a second time.
- Broiled - is the method of exposing food to direct high heat. This high temperature gives a quick sear. This works great for shrimp and scallops.
- Baked - where the food is surrounded by medium temperature and cooks slower. Great for fish wrapped in foil with butter, rosemary and lemon.
General Internal Temperature Rules
Times and temps can really depend on your preference. Here are just some good rule of thumbs to think about as you prepare to cook.Shrimp - Internal temp of at least 120. Shrimp will turn color from white to pink. If you enjoy more of a chewy texture pull the shrimp at a slightly higher temperature.
Fish - Internal temp of at least 145. Fish will become opaque and using a fork the fish should become flaky. Some like fish a little firm and slightly dry - if this is you pull your fish around 150 or 155.
Seasonings for Seafood
A good seasoning on seafood can completely change the flavor profile more than other types of proteins. Seafood tends to really take on what you add to it. We have such a wide variety of all-natural and gluten-free seasonings just perfect for seafood. Here are some of our favorite recipes and seafood inspiration.
- Blackened Shrimp Po Boy with Remoulade Sauce - See the recipe
- Fried Blackened Catfish Tacos - See the recipe
- Blackened Tilapia
- Blackened Seafood Pasta
- Blackened Salmon
- Ahi Tuna Steaks with Q-Nami Rub - See the recipe
- Smoked Buttery Shrimp - See the recipe
- Q-Nami Shrimp and Veggie Stir Fry
- Sweet Lemon Pepper Buttered Scallop Pasta - See the recipe
- Sweet Lemon Pepper Tilapia Bake
- Sweet Lemon Pepper Salmon Salad
Hopefully this simple guide will remove the fear and help you just get started. Experiment with making memorable seafood meals for your friends and family.